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Charles Blacker Vignoles and the Royal Society

Nature volume 150, page 116 (25 July 1942) | Download Citation



AT a meeting of the Royal Society on July 16, a gold snuff-box, once the property of Charles Blacker Vignoles, F.R.S. (1793-1875), was presented to the Society by his grandsons, Mr, E. B. Vignoles and Lieut.-Colonel W. A. Vignoles. Mr. Vignoles, in making the presentation, referred to the fact that in 1841 C. B. Vignoles presented to the Royal Society a fine portrait of Sir Isaac Newton, which had come to him as the result of a connexion between his mother's family and that of Sir Isaac. Mr. Vignoles said that his grandfather, who was of Huguenot descent, came of a long line of soldiers and was an orphan and a prisoner in French hands at the age of thirteen months. He was educated by his maternal grandfather, Dr. Charles Hutton, F.R.S., the mathematician, the author of “Hutton's Logarithm”, in the preparation of which Vignoles assisted. As a young man he served for a time in the Army, taking part in the disastrous attack on Bergen-op-Zoom in 1814. Following the peace after Waterloo, he went to America, where he was engaged on survey work in South Carolina and Florida, then very little known. Returning to England in 1823 he was soon engaged in railway engineering, almost his first work being the first survey for the proposed Liverpool and Manchester Railway. In the course of a long career he carried out important work at home and abroad as a railway and civil engineer, including the great suspension bridge over the Dnieper at Kieff and a railway through the Cantabrian Pyrenees from Bilbao to Tudela, which with its sharp curves and bold moving of a river, struck a new note in railway engineering. The 'Vignoles rail', the flat-bottomed rail of his design still used all over the world, keeps his name familiar to railway engineers. Vignoles was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1855 and was president of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1870-71.

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